Alumna Uses Tax LLM to Build Estate Planning Niche
For Sona Tatiyants ’09, starting a family while also studying tax law had a major impact on her career. Pregnant for much of her time as a Tax LLM student at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, she was inspired to open an estate planning firm focused on people like her: young people starting their own lives and planning for their futures.
Her Loyola education, Tatiyants says, gave her the skills and the confidence she needed as a young lawyer to make her dream a reality.
“There aren’t many attorneys who do what I do and have a Tax LLM,” she says. “Going through Loyola’s program and getting the right education gave me additional validation as an attorney. I feel more prepared to speak with clients.”
Born in Soviet Armenia, Tatiyants moved with her family to the Los Angeles area when she was 12 years old. After earning an English degree from UC Santa Barbara, she entered law school.
As a student, she tried out several types of law practice, including a fellowship with Bet Tzedek Legal Services and an internship in the legal department of the Glendale YWCA. She also externed with a federal magistrate and worked one summer with an insurance defense firm. Her first job as a new lawyer in 2005 was in a personal injury and workers’ compensation firm. But after two and a half years there, she wanted a change.
Estate planning appealed to Tatiyants because she enjoyed her Trusts & Wills class in law school, but firms wouldn’t hire her because she didn’t know enough about tax law. To remedy that problem, she enrolled in Loyola’s Tax LLM. She says the school and the program attracted her because it has a great reputation in tax and was local.
“I was looking for a degree in taxation with a lot of estate planning components,” Tatiyants says. “I took all the estate planning electives Loyola offered.”
Tatiyants’ two favorite classes emphasized practical skills. In her Estate Planning course, students each created an estate plan for the same hypothetical client: a doctor with complications such as a second marriage and a child with special needs.
“It was very hands-on,” she says. “It very much made you think like a specialized attorney.”
The professor was a practicing attorney who gave his students lots of practical advice, including some a surprising recommendations for how to communicate with clients, according to Tatiyants.
“He made us buy ‘Estate Planning for Dummies.’ He told us we need to speak with our clients like everyday people,” she says. “I still have that book in my library.”
Another course Tatiyants found especially useful was Tax Planning for Family Wealth, also taught by a practicing lawyer. The class involved creating very sophisticated planning strategies and then explaining the plans in layman’s terms in memos to the clients.
Now that she is in practice, Tatiyants finds many other Loyola classes, including ones on taxation of businesses, real estate and gifts and estates, have proved to be vital. “I use what I learned in those courses on a daily basis,” she says. “I believe my Tax LLM makes me a more well-versed attorney.”
Apparently, so do her clients. Tatiyants’ focus on estate planning for young families is paying off. Her 8-year-old firm Lynk Law recently moved into larger office space.
Tatiyants works hard to engender a family-friendly atmosphere at the firm. “We’re good at what we do — but we also always remember that we are helping people build their future,” says Tatiyants.
“We have an oven in the office, and we bake cookies for our clients,” she says. “We even have a Lynk Law onesie because we have so many clients who are pregnant.”
When she talks about what she is most proud of, Tatiyants smiles. “Clients send us new baby announcements and invite us to their kids’ birthday parties,” says Tatiyants. “That means we become part of their extended families. That means a lot to me.”